Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt's military secures famed antiquities museum

Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, directly off Tahrir Square

Well, I was half-right. I said the Museum would not become a target. Turns out, it almost did. I forgot about unconscionable looters. Thank you to those citizens that stepped in and prevented the unthinkable to happen before the army could take over. It became vulnerable after the building housing the Democratic Party (Mubarak's) was torched nearby, causing chaos.

Egypt's military secures famed antiquities museum

CAIRO – "The Egyptian army secured Cairo's famed antiquities museum early Saturday, protecting treasures including the famed gold mask of King Tutankhamun from looters.

The greatest threat to the Egyptian Museum first appeared to come from the fire enguling the ruling party headquarters next door on Friday night as anti-government protests roiled the country.

Then dozens of would-be thieves started entering the grounds surrounding the museum.

Suddenly other young men — some armed with truncheons taken from the police — formed a human chain outside the main gates on Tahrir Square in an attempt to protect the collection inside.

"I'm standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure," said one of the men, Farid Saad, a 40-year-old engineer.

Another man, 26-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim, said it was important to guard the museum because it "has 5,000 years of our history. If they steal it, we'll never find it again."

Finally, four armored vehicles took up posts outside the massive coral-colored building in downtown Cairo. Soldiers surrounded the building and moved inside to protect mummies, monumental stone statues, ornate royal jewelry and other pharaonic artifacts."

Main Hall of the Museum

[My personal reflections on the Museum after the jump...]

The Museum is massive and is overflowing with artifacts on display and in storage. It is two stories high and every hall is crammed with precious items from times long gone. You can spend days in there and not see everything. It is a great place to sit and reflect--it has such an atmosphere of its own... impossible for me to describe. A major refuge for both antiquities and lost souls, located in the busiest part of Egypt. --ND
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Egyptian military deploys in Cairo under curfew

Fires burn in the National Democratic Party ruling party headquarters, after it was set alight by anti-government protesters, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) [This is not far from the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which so far seems to be unscathed. The Museum itself would never be a target, but might take collateral damage, which would be tragic, as far as buildings (and antiquities) go.--ND]

Water cannons. Photo by Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

Egyptian military deploys in Cairo under curfew

This is a very good summary of today's events in Cairo and around Egypt. The decidedly different reaction to the army's arrival compared to the police--who are despised--is well worth noting. This government more than likely cannot be overthrown without the army's help. As they are paid next to nothing and tend to come from poor families (much like here) they are not unlikely to side with the protesters. Surprisingly, the article mentions that several police actually stripped from their uniforms and joined the supporters. Another very positive development.

Some photos from the press:

One of the two massive lions that guard the bridge into central Cairo. I was scolded by a policeman back in 1993 for taking pictures of them because the bridge is considered a "military installation" which it is forbidden to photograph under Martial Law. Egyptians have been under Martial Law since Mubarak assumed office almost 30 years ago. (Photo by Ben Curtis/AP)

Cairo's historic Sultan Hassan and Al-Rifai mosques are engulfed with smoke from a nearby fire at a police station which was set ablaze during massive protests by Egyptians demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The United States said Friday that the political unrest in Egypt "is of deep concern." (AFP/Marco Longari) [Very sobering view of two highly revered and simply amazing mosques--ND]

Anti-government protesters surround and stand atop an Egyptian army armoured personnel carrier, near the Tahrir Square, in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday,Jan. 28, 2011. Egyptian activists protested for a fourth day as social networking sites called for a mass rally in the capital Cairo after Friday prayers, keeping up the momentum of the country's largest anti-government protests in years. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

I did read yesterday that one of the cities now rioting is Mansoura, north of Cairo in the delta region, which is the closest large town to where my roommates and I became friends with a whole village (wedding parties will do that) during our stay. So there is no question now that our friends are involved. These are folks with dirt floors (until my roommates' wedding present fixed that) and no phones--much less computers--so we have no way of knowing anything about them. In fact, we've had no contact with them since we left 17 years ago. But the memories are hard and fast, and won't go anywhere anytime soon.

"In the upscale Mohandiseen neighborhood, at least 10,000 were marching toward the city center chanting "down, down with Mubarak." The crowd later swelled to about 20,000 as they made their way through residential areas."

Mohandiseen is a adjacent to my wonderful old neighborhood of Dokki, where an American student I know is currently waiting out the situation. To get from Mohandiseen to the bridge leading towards central Cairo (where they were stopped by police) the crowd would have passed right through Dokki, where it sounds like they picked up enough supporters to double their numbers. Makes me proud.
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egypt ruling party offers no concessions

Ben Curtis, AP

Egypt ruling party offers no concessions

By HAMZA HENDAWI and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Hamza Hendawi And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press

CAIRO – Egypt's ruling party said Thursday it was ready for a dialogue with the public but offered no concessions to address demands for a solution to rampant poverty and political change heard in the country's largest anti-government protests in years.

At the same time, the grass roots protest movement was getting a double boost likely energize the largest anti-government demonstrations Egypt has seen in years. Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate and the country's top pro-democracy advocate, was returning to the country Thursday night and declared he was ready to lead the protests. The country's largest opposition group — the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood — also threw its support behind the demonstrations.

Protests erupted for a third straight day and social networking sites were abuzz with talk that Friday's rallies could be some of the biggest so far calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak after 30-years in power. Millions gather at mosques across the city for Friday prayers, providing organizers with a huge number of people already out on the streets to tap into.

[Click on title for rest of article]

I don't believe in prayer, but I am most definitely hoping for as little violence as possible Friday. This will be a very crucial point in this uprising. Read more!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Plainclothes police arrest Mohamed Abdul Quddus, rapporteur of the Civil Liberties Committee and member of the Press SyndicateCouncil, during clashes in Cairo January 26, 2011. Thousands of Egyptians defied a ban on protests by returning to Egypt's streets on Wednesday and calling for President Hosni Mubarak to leave office, and some scuffled with police. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Egyptian police crack down on new protests (AP)

"Many in Egypt see these events as signs of the authoritarian president's vulnerability in an election year. There is speculation that 82-year-old Mubarak, who has been in power for nearly 30 years and recently experienced serious health problems, may be setting his son Gamal up for hereditary succession. But there is considerable public opposition and, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic memos, it does not meet with the approval of the powerful military. And the regime's tight hold on power has made it virtually impossible for any serious alternative to Mubarak to emerge.

"The crackdown by authorities brought harsh words from European leaders, who expressed concern and said the events underline the need for democratization and respect for human and civil rights. However, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not criticize Egypt's government — a key U.S. ally in the Middle East — but only said the country was stable and Egyptians have the right to protest while urging all parties to avoid violence."

I'm sure there's more to come...

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Mubarak's son and family flee to UK

Mubarak’s son, family fly out to UK: reports

Not a good time to be in Cairo with the last name of Mubarak. President Mubarak has been grooming his son Gamal to follow him. Though presidencies are not supposed to be inherited, I guess we've all seen it happen here with the Bushes...

But it looks like it's getting a little too hot in Heliopolis lately, so Gamal and family have fled to the UK. Is the captain ready to go down with his ship?

My former professor in Cairo, Abbas al-Tonsi, also posted an Arabic article from The Telegraph (not sure which country) stating that the Egyptian revolution is shaking up the US government. LIke I said, though we often slapped Mubarak's wrist verbally for frequent human rights abuses, they are our most important ally (close tie with Saudia Arabia, but for vastly different reasons) and receive billions of US dollars of aid every year. The US is careful to provide matching amounts to Israel (not a poor nation, by the way) to keep everyone "happy." My favorite subscript to that fact is that the US profits ENORMOUSLY by providing munitions to both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. We have for decades.

Something tells me Hillary did not sleep well the last two nights...

See next post for more.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cairo--After Night Fell, so did Midan at-Tahrir :(

Egyptian police fired tear gas early Wednesday on thousands of protesters in Cairo, as three people died during unprecedented nationwide rallies seekingto end President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

This is still unreal to me. The American University in Cairo used to be about 100 yards from here. I crossed this maze of (usually) cars and buses every day. The Egyptian Musuem of Antiquities is right here... The Hilton, where we would escape the heat and slide across the marble floors like wet ice... The iconic Coco-Cola sign up atop one of the largest buildings... The main government building, the Mugamma, where a gov worker took his own life during our stay by jumping to his death onto the Square... All memories I have that didn't take place at the pyramids were centered here. Even the injured sorrel cart horse with the broken ankle, and the young boy pleading with him to get him home, which he never did... The woman and children lining this street selling government-issued Kleenex packets all day every day for pennies--Mubarak's idea of welfare. A traffic cop holding a dying boy, hit by a car, in his arms as my taxi passed, unable to get through the traffic to save him...
No, I will never forget Cairo. Her smoke is in my blood. Their blood is on the streets.

...يا مصر يا قالبي

Egyptians denounce Mubarak, clash with riot police
[Taken from AP piece-updated]

As night fell, thousands of demonstrators stood their ground for what they vowed would be an all-night sit-in in Tahrir Square just steps away from parliament and other government buildings — blocking the streets and setting the stage for even more dramatic confrontations.

A large security force moved in around 1 a.m. Wednesday, arresting people, chasing others into side streets and filling the square with clouds of tear gas. Protesters collapsed on the ground with breathing problems amid the heavy volleys of tear gas.

The sound of what appeared to be automatic weapons fire could be heard as riot police and plainclothes officers chased several hundred protesters who scrambled onto the main road along the Nile in downtown Cairo. Some 20 officers were seen brutally beating one protester with truncheons.

"It got broken up ugly with everything, shooting, water cannon and (police) running with the sticks," said Gigi Ibrahim, who was among the last protesters to leave the square. "It was a field of tear gas. The square emptied out so fast."

Ibrahim said she was hit in her back with something that felt like a rock. "Some people were hit in their faces."

Some protesters turned violent amid the crackdown. They knocked down an empty white police booth and dragged it for several yards before setting it on fire, chanting that they want to oust the regime. A police pickup truck was overturned and set ablaze behind the famed Egyptian Museum. Protesters also set fire to a metal barricade and blocked traffic on a major bridge over the Nile.

Police at the bridge fired tear gas and protesters mounted a charge, forcing officers to retreat, though they quickly regrouped. Two protesters with bleeding head wounds were carried off in ambulances.

Well after midnight, the smell of tear gas drifted throughout central Cairo and riot police remained deployed in large numbers. Tahrir Square looked like a battlefield covered with rocks and debris. The gates of the ruling party headquarters near the square were smashed.

Scattered groups of protesters were holding out in several areas. Many were chased by police vehicles into the Shubra neighborhood, where the streets were strewn with rocks in a sign of a heavy confrontation.

Discontent with life in Egypt's authoritarian police state has simmered under the surface for years. However, it is Tunisia's popular uprising, which forced that nation's autocratic ruler from power, that appears to have pushed young Egyptians into the streets, many for the first time.

"This is the first time I am protesting, but we have been a cowardly nation. We have to finally say no," said Ismail Syed, a hotel worker who struggles to live on a salary of $50 a month.
Read more!

Protests in Cairo continue into night...

"Several thousand remained in the streets after dark, and many promised to stay through the night in the square, steps away from parliament and other government buildings."

Tahrir Square, a circular multi-lane roundabout with a small park in the center. It is the heart of Cairo. And there is never a time when those lanes are not filled bumper to bumper with cars instead of people braving baton and tear gas-wielding riot police. Ironically, today is a national holiday honoring police. --Nancy

[AP Article updated]

Egyptians denounce Mubarak, clash with riot police
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Riots in Cairo (and Alexandria) as Protests Reign

Riot police still in their trucks. Not for long. (Photos by Emad Abdel Rahman Taryal)

Egyptians denounce Mubarak, clash with riot police (Associated Press)

This is the only article (above) I have found so far and is well worth reading.

This is a HUGE development in Egypt. Mubarak has governed--and suppressed--Egypt since Sadat's assassination in 1980. I saw demonstrations for various reasons during my year there, but they were VERY quickly suppressed and dispersed. Anyone caught was arrested and typically beaten. The fact that these Egyptians filled Midan at-Tahrir, Cairo's central hub, which is huge and normally filled with cars, is astounding. Even more unbelievable are the pictures of hundreds or thousands of protestors being kept by riot police from crossing the main bridges into central Cairo.

Blocking access to central Cairo, heart of the protests

I would not have noticed this if I hadn't seen posts on Facebook from my primary Arabic professor at the American University in Cairo back in the 90's, Abbas at-Tonsi. I can barely read his Arabic comments anymore, but I read enough to go looking for news. And I found it.

I am not going to be so patronizing as to say I am proud of Egypt today, but I will say my heart is with them 100%. There has been violence, and there is likely to be more. Mubarak has had 30 years to fortify his position. But never has there been such a movement against him like this. I wish them all courage and safety.
Batons out

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Myles Smiles

Myles Smiles

A celebration of Myles Kennedy and the smiles he shares with his innumerable fans, dedicated to one of Alter Bridge's greatest fans and promoters, Erin Freriks, who left us unexpectedly at age 30 on January 10, 2011. Set to "Life Must Go On" from Alter Bridge's album AB III.

Erin would have been 31 today.

Enjoy! Read more!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chris Cornell Announces Songbook Tour (Surprise!)

Chris Cornell Announces Plans For 'Songbook' Acoustic Tour
Posted by CCadmin on 1/19/2011

This Spring, Chris Cornell will embark on his first-ever solo acoustic “Songbook” tour. Running from April through May 2011, it will spotlight songs from throughout his illustrious career, as well as a few surprise covers.

Back in December 2009, Cornell played his first acoustic “Songbook” show in Los Angeles at the Hotel Cafe to overwhelming response - the show sold out instantly. A second performance soon followed at the city's famous Troubadour.

Now, live audiences across the US & Canada will also have the chance to see Chris perform unplugged, up close and personal - an event many fans have been eagerly anticipating for years. Within this alternative setting, Cornell can easily interact with the audience and share insights about his music. Familiar songs emerge in a new context, showing that great songwriting translates to any idiom.

4/1/11 Austin, TX @ Paramount Theatre
4/2/11 Houston, TX @ House of Blues
4/3/11 Dallas, TX @House of Blues
4/5/11 Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage
4/6/11 Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
4/8/11 Bridgeport, CT @ The Klein Memorial Auditorium
4/9/11 Boston, MA @ Berklee Performance Hall
4/10/11 Glenside, PA @ Keswick Theatre
4/12/11 New York, NY @Town Hall Theatre
4/15/11 Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa - Music Box
4/16/11 Montclair, NJ @ Wellmont Theatre
4/17/11 Washington, DC @ Sixth & I Historic Synagogue
4/19/11 Poughkeepsie, NY @ Bardavon
4/20/11 Toronto, ON @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
4/22/11 Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
4/23/11 Milwaukee, WI @ Pabst Theater
4/24/11 Saint Paul, MN @Fitzgerald Theatre
4/26/11 Edmonton, AB @Winspear Centre
4/27/11 Medicine Hat, AB @ Esplanade Arts & Heritage Centre
4/29/11 Victoria, BC @ Royal Theatre
4/30/11 Coquitlam, BC @ Red Robinson Show Theatre
5/1/11 Seattle, WA @ Moore Theatre
5/3/11 San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
5/4/11 Los Angeles, CA @ John Anson Ford Amphitheatre
5/6/11 San Diego, CA @Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

See you in Chicago and Milwaukee!!
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Happy Motherfuckin' Birthday, Dave!!

Dave and Taylor just after viewing my video

Dave Grohl turns 42 years old today. Son of a bitch--that still makes me 18 months older than his sweet ass.

In honor of his birthday, go get flipped off (and entertained in general) by the Man himself. Made this when Slash's CD dropped last year--to the tune of Slash and Dave's "Watch This":

Watch This, Motherfuckers!

Go watch it again. You know you want to. Read more!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In Memory of Erin Freriks, 1/22/1980-1/10/2011

Mark Tremonti (AB guitarist), Erin Freriks, and Myles Kennedy (AB vocalist)

[I am sorry, Erin, that you have to be my first obituary. I'd probably be asking you how to write it.--Nancy]

I knew Erin as most people did--through her intense love of music. She and I are both from Madison, so we ran into each other at numerous Alter Bridge shows in the Midwest. I soon learned it was she who started the first website for Alter Bridge, and was instrumental in jump-starting their fan base. Pretty damn impressive for a woman who was just 24 at the time.

Though I knew her casually for many years, only recently did we start talking on Twitter and via text. I am a hard-core follower of my musicians, and also a woman of strong opinions, and we found we had both those things in common. I admired her conviction and ability to preservere when things got tough for her--her strength is very much worth admiring.

Most recently, we talked a lot about Alter Bridge's last show (of this tour leg) in Houston. I had a rare opportunity to attend, and she was having a very hard time making it work. She ended up staying home, but encouraged me all day Saturday as I struggled to find and make flights to get there in time. She "followed" me in as I took my position on the rail, and even scolded me for twittering during one of the opening bands. "Don't waste your battery! Wait for AB!" I laughed out loud because it was so Erin.

I watched her posts with concern as she grew ill on Sunday. It seemed like a bad flu bug, but kept getting worse. Her last post Monday indicated that the "shooting, stabbing stomach pains" had stopped, and left her with only a dull ache. I am not, by nature, an optimist, and was very concerned about how much this sounded like a ruptured appendix. It was with extreme shock and horror that I read of her passing the next morning. I do not know what caused her death, but it grieves me that she was in so much pain this weekend. I know she has battled other illnesses in the past, and I think she is just so damn stoic that she figured it was just another obstacle to ride out. I am truly in shock that whatever it was took her from us.

UPDATE: Cause of death was a pulmonary embolism. By the time symptoms became apparent it was too late.

Her death sent the very tight-knit Alter Bridge community into a tailspin today. I had to stop working so I could be "with" her friends from around the world--both those who had met her and those who knew of her. I live and work alone at home and those friends helped me make it through the day. The support from and for the whole community was extremely strong, particularly the website/forum The Alter Bridge Nation.

I am sure I am not the only one, but I contacted the band as soon as I saw her brother's post this morning to let them know. Within a few hours, they posted their deep regrets both as a band, and individually. That is the kind of men they are, and why she was so dedicated to them. They really underlined how we all felt when they said, "Our shows won't be the same without you."

Erin lived a short life but touched many people and made a very large impact for one person. I honor her strength, determination, devotion, and mostly, her undying love for her favorite music and musicians.

Though I have not been able to listen to Alter Bridge since I heard the news, it is only fitting to post the one song that comes to mind with this tragic loss. It is "Blackbird," recorded live in Amsterdam in 2009. I have posted the lyrics after the jump.

Rest in peace, Erin. You will be sorely missed.


The willow it weeps today
A breeze from the distance is calling your name
Unfurl your black wings and wait
Across the horizon it's coming to sweep you away
It's coming to sweep you away

Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

The fragile cannot endure
The wrecked and the jaded a place so impure
The static of this cruel world
Cause some birds to fly long before they've seen their day
Long before they've seen their day

Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

Beyond the suffering you've known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again

Ascend may you find no resistance
Know that you made such a difference
All you leave behind will live to the end
The cycle of suffering goes on
But memories of you stay strong
Someday I too will fly and find you again

Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

Beyond the suffering you've known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again
May you never be broken again
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Alter Bridge--The Perfect Storm, Postscript

Myles Kennedy at -15 degrees

For a moment, I just stood there, right inside the Moonrise doors, breathing in the warmth, feeling the ice crystals in my lungs begin to melt. The staff was staring at me in a highly cautious manner, but I didn’t care. They had my credit card—I had paid for this luxury.

After a moment, I stumbled on numb toes over to the lounge area and collapsed in the most comfortable chair the world has ever known. I closed my eyes and gave myself over to God. I was done, and I was ready, if She wanted me.

Apparently She didn’t want me (I’m not sure She is fond of Agnostics) because when I opened my eyes I was still there, and the staff was still eyeing me warily. Not long after, however, the rest of the team straggled in, smiling and laughing. They all collapsed around me and we drank in the heat. Sarah, however, only paused slightly as she came in the door, clearly headed straight for the elevators—and bed. She bid her farewells and gave a blank stare to Steph when asked, “Don’t you want to come to the bar with us for a while?”

The energizer Bunny, I now know, also operates flawlessly in sub-zero temperatures. I think I laughed out loud. I was still suffering a bit from hysteria. I stood shakily and told the group that I, too, was done. Over and out. It was either risk looking rude or die in a lobby instead of a comfortable bed. I chose the former. So ladies, now you know I was simply done in by a weekend that you have full details on. But it was still wonderful to see you! (And let’s look forward to whatever Pearl Jam is cooking up for their Destination Weekend late summer!)

It wouldn’t have been the The Perfect Storm if our key cards had worked once we got to our room. Both cards, de-activated. Wordlessly, we went back down to the front desk to get them jump-started. It was at this time I noticed that when I opened my mouth, less and less was coming out. My vocal chords, preserved just long enough for a final conversation with Myles and Flip, were clearly on the way out.

The next thing I remember is waking up and feeling like someone had their hand wrapped around my throat. Someone had done a completely thorough job on my vocal chords. I had even promised myself after Chicago, which left me a little hoarse, that I would lip-synch in St. Louis to keep from further damaging my vocal chords. That didn’t happen. The minute Myles took the stage I sang every note, full volume.

Steph, who came in after we were asleep, had been up since about 5 a.m. typing away on her laptop. As she noticed me sit up, she asked if she had woken me. I opened my mouth to answer and… nothing. Not even a squeak. All of it, gone. First thought was, “How the fuck does Myles do it every night?” and the second was, “How the fuck do I work tomorrow?” I had no vacation time left (really goes without saying, now) and I work 90% over the phone, and 10% via e-mail—all from home. THIS was going to be interesting.

Scott "Flip" Phillips, Steph the Eneergizer Bunny, Myles Kennedy, Sarah and I
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We Have to Talk

Red-winged Blackbird

I woke up very upset this morning, and had to wait a while before I could determine the source. Anger is a mask for other emotons--usually fear or sadness, and in my case, is was sadness. You can't work through an emotion if you don't know how or why it got there--or what it really is. (Go to enough shrinks, you learn a few tricks.)

It's about the birds. You know the ones--some 5000 Red-winged Blackbirds that fell out of the sky--most dead, some still staggering--on New Year's Eve in Arkansas. Then 100,000 Drum fish wash up dead 125 miles away. And now more reports coming from other states AND other countries.

Conspiracy-lovers (and the media) are ready to declare a National Holiday, they're so excited. I am deeply concerned, but not excited, and not altogether mystified. Whatever the cause, humans were most likely behind it. That just saddens me, but in no way surprises me.

What actually makes me sadder is that while all these people are spending hours online researching the cause of these die-offs, no one says a word about mass killings at factory farms when they go grocery shopping. So now we care about Red-winged Blackbirds but don't give a damn about the treatment of domestic animals? Ones that follow us, trust us, take care of us... Animals we condone the torture and killing of on a daily basis so we can enjoy our cheeseburgers? Why do we turn a blind eye to these practices but not the recent wildlife deaths?

Jersey cows

It is because we are hoping to find the government to blame for the wildlife deaths, all the time KNOWING that WE are to blame for millions upon millions of domestic AND wild animal deaths each and every year. Need some statistics? Very few of you were willing to read the book I could not stop talking about last year, Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Why is that? You have time to spend hours online for blackbirds, but not an hour or two for this book, which tells story after story of how the cows and pigs we eat are quite often still alive as the hide is being pulled from their bodies? Chickens and turkeys still alive, throats partially slit, as they are lowered into boiling water? Too much reality when WE are the cause, isn't it? Too hard to look in the mirror--much easier to look towards the Pentagon.

Don't get me wrong--I'm no Pentagon lover, I just think we REALLY need to step back and take a good, hard look at ourselves before we spend any more time lamenting birds we usually just swear at for shitting on our cars.

Here are some statistics for you:

USDA slaughter stats 2008

Cattle: 35,507,500
Pigs: 116,558,900
Chickens: 9,075,261,000
Layer hens: 69,683,000
Broiler chickens: 9,005,578,000
Turkeys: 271,245,000

Source: The Farm Report (a publication of the Farm Animal Reform Movement)

Taken from the website for the Animal Liberation Front. Doubt the organization if you choose, but the USDA numbers speak for themselves.

Pigs in a factory farm. They live their entire--albeit short--lives in these pens.

What about hunting? How many wild birds do we shoot each year? And that's okay?

Canada Goose
From the website for In Defense of Animals:

"With an arsenal of rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, handguns, bows and arrows, hunters kill more than 200 million animals yearly - crippling, orphaning, and harassing millions more. The annual death toll in the U.S. includes 42 million mourning doves, 30 million squirrels, 28 million quail, 25 million rabbits, 20 million pheasants, 14 million ducks, 6 million deer, and thousands of geese, bears, moose, elk, antelope, swans, cougars, turkeys, wolves, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, boars, and other woodland creatures. (Compiled by The Fund for Animals with data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies.)"

Specific page for this quote found here.
White-tailed Deer

The word we are looking for here, I think, is hypocrisy. We are on very thin ice right now. If you want to care about blackbirds, then I'm afraid you have to care about ALL the animals. We don't get to pick and choose. They all have brains and beating hearts.
Where have ours gone?

Piglets in a factory farm

Thank you if you read this, whether you agree or not.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Perfect Storm--Alter Bridge in St. Louis 12/13/10

Nancy, Sarah, Steph, and Nanci READY & WAITING at the Pageant in St. Louis, MO (Photo by security)

ALTER BRIDGE—A Perfect Storm, St. Louis Show

If you asked me before December 13, 2010 if it were possible for any band to cram 2 hours of energy into a one-hour performance, I’d have said no. I was wrong.

Alter Bridge, as a result of opening for the Sick Puppies at this venue, was limited to a one-hour set. You read that right: We went through a five-hour blizzard, endless hours out in the cold, and two not-so-cheap hotel rooms to see ONE HOUR of Alter Bridge live. If that does not attest to the quality of this band, I don’t know what does.

Brian and Myles--Flip's back there somewhere (Photo by Stephanie Munoz)

Needless to say, the two-song acoustic set was eliminated from the set list, as were “White Knuckles” and “Broken Wings.” Regardless, they poured everything they had into the remaining 13 songs, and I in no way felt shorted when they left the stage at the end of “Rise Today.” (Well, not anymore than I usually do, since I would love for my favorite bands to all play four-hour sets the way R.E.M. used to, back in the day…)

Set List (highlighted have video—better visual than audio because we are so close):

Slip to the Void
Find the Real
Before Tomorrow Comes
Brand New Start
Cut: White Knuckles
Metalingus** A MUST WATCH
Ghosts of Days Gone By
Cut: Broken Wings
Ties That Bind
I Know It Hurts (partial)
Come To Life
Open Your Eyes
Dueling guitars and Rise Today


I highly recommend that you

The sound was tight, though always somewhat distorted when you are 4 feet from the stage—a price we are willing to pay. The stage here was also higher than your typical stage, so there was a bit of neck-craning going on. (Yes, more than usual. You think I don’t know what you’re thinking? Wrong.) I was located almost directly in front of Myles’ microphone, with Sarah to my left, then Steph and Nanci. If you’re clever you already noticed that in the picture security took for us.

I mention the height of the stage because it was immediately clear to us that Myles could not reach down to grab hands without landing on his head, so that was out. Made us glad we went to the Chicago show (not that we needed another reason).

As for the show, it was GREAT. (I can already tell I’m getting better at reviewing with every show!) Myles voice was spot-on, and no wobbly strings heard on any guitar. The band played the set as if they were headlining, with full energy and smiles all around. People in the line had been trumpeting that this was really a Sick Puppies crowd, and not an Alter Bridge crowd, but they were clearly misinformed, as Myles was not disappointed each time he held the microphone out to us to sing along. The kids next to me may not have known the words, but someone did, because the crowd seemed to sing just as loudly in STL as they did in Chicago. And it made Myles smile—which makes us smile.
Now just enjoy a few pictures...
Blackbird (Photo by Nanci Kripal Freed)

Money shot of Blackbird guitar solo (NKF)


For some reason this tour, the song that is really sticking with people is “Blackbird.” I read this as recently as today, after a fan (Ryan—Hey!) in Hollywood said that "Blackbird" was truly off the hook in L.A. It’s a very personal song for Myles, referring to a friend of his who lost his or her battle with cancer, and he has mentioned that the solo he wrote for it had to be extremely moving for him—and consequently, for us. He puts so much emotion into that solo, working his guitar like a dance partner, and throwing his head back as far as he can in certain parts. It is indeed something to both hear AND watch, as you can see from the pictures above and below.


Blackbird (NKF)

Blackbird (Photo by Nancy Dietrich)

The head toss I wait for in Myles' Blackbird solo (ND)

The other song that stood out, jumped out, slapped us all in the face—was “Metalingus.” I can’t say that it was all that different from when he sang it in Chicago, but either the angle of the audience relative to the stage or leaving his jeans too long in the dryer made for a somewhat distracting, if pleasant, spectacle. If you only watch one video of Steph’s, it must me this one. We are just one phrase into the song when she throws in a well-timed “Oh. My. God.” I think Nanci’s pictures help shed light on the situation.

Picture of the Night captured during Metalingus (NKF)

Trying out new moves to Metalingus (ND)

Cranking out Metalingus (ND)

This is also the song during which he approaches the front of the stage to sit on a monitor and sing a few bars from there. I think I almost took a knee to the nose, we were so close. It was at this time that the tall kid next to me and I noticed a smaller, young girl clutching a red rose behind us. It wasn’t for either of us. As I watch Myles fairly closely, I saw that he saw her as he approached the monitor. She, meanwhile, was freaking out. “He’ll never see me! He’ll never take it!”

Approaching the front of the stage (ND)

I leaned over to her and yelled in her ear “He sees you—just wait. He will take it.” And then hoped I was right. Tall dude and I moved aside and pulled her up to the rail so she could hold it up—like I said, it was a reach—and he did not disappoint, reaching down and taking it from her. She was sobbing. Then we kicked her back off the rail.

Belting out Metalingus, holding a rose in his right hand (ND)

As the song neared its end, he got up and walked back to the mic stand, nodding a thank you to the young girl.
“Pretty hardcore song to get a rose during,” he said, laughing. “More like, ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorns’…” at which point he took the guitar Wookie was holding out for him and played a few strains of Mötley Crüe. Who knows… if this singing thing doesn’t work out for him, he might just have a future as a stand-up comic. Hey, I’D still go see him! (Yeah, I know. Shut up.)

Looking at the pictures I posted, one may wonder if Myles played this show solo. In fact, he did not. Mark Tremonti was still there shredding his guitars (LOVE the one with the Another Animal sticker on it—shout-out to the GREAT super-band that toured with them in 2007. Click here for more on them. Robbie Merrill RULES!!) And Brian was a smiling force just to our left. Flip continued to destroy on the drum kit behind his Plexiglass shield.

So it was over before it started, but any doubts we had about whether or not it was worth what we had gone through to see a one-hour set were wiped clean. They gave it everything they had and more, and delivered yet another priceless performance.

There was no sitting around when the lights rose at the Pageant—we headed for the buses. On the way, we grabbed our coats—nice and crispy from the zero degree temperatures—from the car out in front of the venue. Nothing like throwing on an ice-cold coat over a sweaty body… I think this was the first time I heard Stephanie mention that she was finally feeling the cold. No time to gloat—we had stalking to do.
The Woman from Houston (NKF)

We bundled up as we jogged around the building to get to the buses. Sarah and I will never forget he times we have seen (or heard of) Myles running directly to the bus after the encore, and with the temps this cold we knew there was a good chance he might do that.

As we reached the midpoint between the bus and stage door, however, it was clear from the bored stance of the security guards that no one (from the band) had come out yet. Man, those guys looked cold. And so it began.

The Waiting. If a band doesn’t make a run for it right away, chances are they are taking a quick shower, doing a Meet and Greet, and maybe grabbing some food and drink before they retire to the bus. This typically takes 90 minutes.

During our vigil, security repeatedly came up to us to tell us encouraging things like, “The venue has a 2 a.m. close, so they could be in there awhile.” I rolled my eyes. “This band doesn’t sit around until 2 a.m., but thanks.” Another security guy, whose job included trying to drive over our toes every 5 minutes as he circled the block, stopped and rolled down his window to add his two cents. “I don’t think they’re coming out for a long time. I wouldn’t wait around if I were you.” Which proved that we were not him. And watch the toes!

Jill, Julie and Nanci (SM)

I almost forgot to mention that we were not alone. To my surprise, the Midwest Mamas were being incredible troopers and had also come out for the vigil. Now I KNOW they would do that for Cornell, but I took that as a sign that they had enjoyed Alter Bridge that they ran out on the Sick Puppies to wait in that weather to meet whomever might eventually emerge. My gas gauge was on empty, as was Sarah’s patience with cold and waiting, and I know we came off as both obsessed (true) and unsocial (not so much, under normal circumstances) as we hopped from foot to foot and stared with glassy, frozen eyes at that magic door.

Nanci, Jill, and Tina (SM)

We watched as someone in a golf cart (with useless plastic wind guards) delivered a few boxes of pizza to the AB bus. Briefly encouraged, until we saw it was just the roadies (okay—no disrespect—these guys are INVALUABLE to the show, and we all know it) ran out to grab a few pieces. When we saw Myles’ tech, Wookie, we made a lot of noise and got a wave. Our hope was that he would mention to Myles that “those women” were out there again, and might be about to die from the elements.

Early on, we also saw Shim from the Sick Puppies as he ran from his bus to the stage door for their set. I was instantly awash in guilt. Our cover was blown. We weren’t the die-hard SP fans he thought—we were Myles’ girls. He DID recognize us (damn it) and yelled to us, still smiling, “Get back in there!” Turns out we might as well have. They played their entire set as we stood outside. But it just wasn’t a risk we were willing to take.

We were out back by 10 p.m. Just before 11, I told Sarah I didn’t think I could make it, and was “calling it” at 11. Being able to see my hotel room from where we stood frozen to the ground was NOT helping. Sarah, who had brought the car back around to the rear lot (my PRIMO spot was being held hostage by other fans who had the engine running to keep warm—BASTARDS!!) ran over to it and came back with the propane heater. Though I felt I’d have to stuff the entire machine down my pants to make a difference at this point, I tried to ease the pain in my toes as we all gathered around it. Eleven O’clock came and went, but I stayed. There’s something about standing at the front of a brave line of 20-25 people that makes it VERY hard to be the first one to give up.

“11:15,” I told Sarah. She just nodded. She wouldn’t have stopped me, but her tenacity was helping to keep me from fleeing. It all went without saying.

About this time, one of the security guys who had told us they might not be out until 2 a.m., and who had been watching us from the warmth of his van for 75 minutes, came over and leaned in close to me, like he had a secret. I am all for secrets—especially when they probably involved finding out if Alter Bridge is EVER going to come out.

“Soon, I think,” he said, looking both ways like someone else might hear. “They just turned on our radios.” He nodded a knowing look, which I returned solemnly. He then over-casually strolled back to his car, doing his best to pretend he hadn’t just dropped critical intel on one of “us.” Of course I immediately turned and related the news, adding that it didn’t really mean much, but was better than nothing. God bless ‘em, the Midwest Mamas appeared to be having a blast—albeit a frozen one. I was envious. I felt like a disgruntled popsicle—like the last one in the box that is left stuck to the bottom of the freezer that no one ever notices. I wanted my band. I wanted heat. I wanted this to be OVER.

On the dot at 11:30 p.m., the stage door opened and out came drummer Flip and Mr. Myles Kennedy. I probably would have peed myself in relief if all my bodily fluids weren’t already frozen sold. But I did have the wherewithal to PANIC: Sarah had just run back to the car for her snow pants and was nowhere in sight. So I did the only thing any normal stalker would do.

Breaking formation (we had been strictly instructed to stay in a single line behind this point!) I jogged over to Myles, saying to him—and even as I type this I can’t believe it came out of my mouth—“It is SO FUCKING COLD out here, Baby!!” Then capped it off by throwing my arms around him in a bear hug. Luckily for me, security was much slower than I was, and Myles had forgotten his bear repellent. I can only imagine the look on his face. I did see Flip’s, and he was laughing hysterically. I loosened my grip on Myles and found him to be grinning—thank God. I still had my arm around his waist.

“I can’t let go of you,” I told him. “Sarah just ran to the car and she’s not here and if she misses you and…”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he told me. That may have been true, but I kept my arm around him just for good measure. He then turned to me and in his typical, quiet, off-stage voice, thanked me for the book I gave him in Chicago. “And the letter. Thank you for the letter.”

I was floored. I had just tackled him in a moment of madness and instead of closing off and calling for help, he remembered and thanked me for my gifts. His humility seemed to know no bounds. Slightly thrown, I jokingly asked, “and the 600 tweets..?”

“Well now, those are just impressive,” he laughed.

At this moment I saw a black knit cap bobbing up and down between the cars in the parking lot. “Here she comes,” I warned Myles. And like a pro baseball player, she rounded third base, saw home plate and came running. About ten feet shy she slammed on the brakes and slid the rest of the way, coming to rest with a gentle body slam right in front of where Myles and I were connected. And Nanci took the shot.

What we came for. (NKF)

I let go of the man and finally let the others in. Flip was sort of just standing there, so I asked him for a hug. Steph and Sarah were still talking to Myles so I took the opportunity to ask Flip about the shield for his kit, and he explained how it was put in place to protect Myles damaged hearing. We agreed it was kind of a bummer, caging him off, but also agreed it was a very worthwhile cause.

I felt by this time that everyone behind me (all of whom I fear I had forgotten the moment Myles appeared) were about ready to mutiny. I tapped Myles on the shoulder and told him I was heading in.

“But we’ll see you in Houston,” added Steph, “and it should be a helluva lot warmer!”

“I’m going to hold you to that!” Myles said, pointing at her. Then to me he quickly added, “See you in Twitterverse!” I smiled (had I ever stopped?)

Then without a word to anyone—and now I feel badly about it, but I was seriously SO FAR over my cold limit it is beyond description—I RAN for the hotel doors. Probably only 50 yards, but they lasted forever. I just broke through the glass doors like an action movie since I was done waiting for things like automatic sliding doors. That was probably going to add quite a bit to our bill, but I didn’t care. I was IN A HEATED BUILDING.

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